Barber Tommy J Heath mastered his trade at a young age and he’s a stickler for style – one very particular style
There’s just one haircut on the menu at Hair by Tommy J: a short back and sides. It’s a bold proposition, but the 29-year-old barber knows what he likes – and his customers like that, too. “It’s not a discrimination about sex, it’s a discrimination about attitude,” says Heath, whose 1950s-style barbershop used to be known as Guys and Dolls before he switched to the one-style rule. To be clear, the store does welcome female clients – and they’ve had a lot of them – but Tommy still insists they've "got to make the first chop” if they want to sit in one of his chairs. He hands over the scissors to all long-haired customers, male or female, for that liberating first snip.
Tommy J takes a moment to recollect how his nickname came to stick. “Whenever I was in trouble I was called ‘Tommy J’, so it was my alter ego. ‘Thomas J Heath’ doesn’t get into mischief.”
The shop has been open in Redfern for around four years, and the walls are covered in skateboards and street art; there’s also a surfboard propped up in the corner. “Most of our furniture has either been built here in the shop or we’ve found and repurposed things from the streets.” The chairs are from collectors and old barbershops in Lismore, Maroubra, and Stanmore, and if you look closely you’ll see a few ice hockey trophies, too.
Heath says the sport "was a massive part of my life, from ten years old to about 23. I played for Lismore Hawks, I played for Queensland and I represented Australia when I was 17.” He got into hairdressing at age 14, when he learned “everything from roller sets to quiffs” and now he’s hired to set up shop at events like the Tattoo Expos, Laneway Festival and the Rolling Stone Awards.
“I haven’t 'worked' in 17 years," he says. "If there’s a day when I wake up and it feels like a job, I’ll shut up shop.” In fact, he likes his shop and the area so much that Tommy J moved in next door. “I love the people. I think the main thing that’s changed is people’s perspective of Redfern. It’s not as dangerous as people make it out to be.”
|Venue name:||Hair by Tommy J|
112 George St
|Opening hours:||Tue, Thu-Sat 9am-5pm; Wed 9am-8pm|